The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Judith
Now turn we to one whom all this news concerned; a widow called Judith, that was descended (from Ruben)✻ through Merari, Idox, Joseph, Ozias, Elai, Jamnor, Gedeon, Raphaim, Achitob, Melchias, Enan, Nathanias, Salathiel and Simeon.
She had been married to one Manasses, but lost him when the barley was a-reaping;
he must needs be hurrying his men on as they bound the sheaves on his farm, while the sun beat fierce on his head, and of that stroke he died, and was laid to rest with his fathers, there in his native town of Bethulia.
Judith had now been left a widow these three years and six months past;
ever she dwelt cloistered among her maid-servants, in a secret bower she had made for herself on the roof of her house,
wearing sackcloth about her waist and keeping fast continually, save on the sabbath and the new moon and what other holidays were observed in Israel.
She was a woman very fair to see, and her husband had left her great wealth, a full household, and lands well stocked with cattle and sheep;
a woman of high repute everywhere, and the Lord’s devout worshipper; no man had a word to say in her dispraise.
This Judith, then, when she heard how Ozias had promised to surrender the city in five days’ time, would have two of the elders, Chabri and Charmi, pay her a visit.✻
And thus she greeted them, Is it true Ozias has promised he will hand the city over to the Assyrians, if in five days no rescue comes to you?
By what right, sirs, do you put the Lord’s goodness to such a test?
This is no way to win it; rather, we shall earn his displeasure, add fuel to his vengeance.
What, would you set a date to the Lord’s mercies, bid him keep tryst with you on a day of your own appointing?
Well for us that he, at least, is patient; repent we, and with flowing tears ask his pardon!
He will not overwhelm us with reproaches, as men do; not his the human anger that bursts into flame.
Abate we our pride, and wait on him with chastened spirits;
entreat him with tears to grant us relief at a time of his own choosing. Then shall we, who stand aghast now at the pride of our enemies, triumph in the reward of our humility.
It is something that we have not followed the evil example of our forefathers, who forsook their own God and worshipped alien gods instead,
dooming themselves thus to massacre, to plunder, and to insult at the hands of their enemies. At least we acknowledge one God, and him only.
Wait we humbly till he sends us relief; he will avenge our wrongs by bringing misfortune on our enemies; he, the Lord our God, will bring the invader low, and disappoint him of his prize.
You, brethren, are among the elders of the people; their lives are in your charge. Yours to hearten them, by reminding them what trials our fathers underwent, to shew whether they were God’s worshippers indeed;
how Abraham was put to the proof, tested by long endurance, before he became God’s friend;
how Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all who won God’s favour, must be loyal to him under great affliction first.
And what of those others, who could not hold out, submitting to the divine will, under these trials; who bore themselves impatiently, and did the Lord despite by complaining against him?
These were the men the destroying angel slew, the men who fell a prey to serpents.
It is our turn to suffer now, and never a word said in remonstrance;
think we the Lord’s rod too light a punishment for our sins, believe we that he is punishing us as his servants, to chasten, not to destroy.
All thou sayest is true, Ozias and the elders confessed, beyond cavil.
Pray for us, holy woman as thou art, and the Lord’s true worshipper.
Why then, said Judith, if you recognize the words I say as God’s words,
judge for yourselves whether the deed I mean to do is of God’s ordaining; and pray him to bring my design to effect.
Stand at the gate this night, while I pass beyond it with my handmaid for company, and pray that the Lord bring Israel relief within the five days you spoke of.
But what my design is, never ask me; till I come back and give you news, I would have nothing of you but your prayers to the Lord our God.
Go in peace, Ozias said, and the Lord be with thee, to the confusion of our enemies. And with that they left her, and withdrew.
The Holy Bible